Maria Cypher, Principal and Creative Director at Just the Word and Catchword Branding
Principal, Creative Director
Location: San Francisco Bay Area & New York City
How long have you been in the domain industry? Since 1999, when a naming client got up in the middle of a meeting to register a dozen available domains we’d just presented to him.
Favorite extension: Dot-com!
Domain name you wished you owned: Any short, real word with positive associations. Domains.com would be nice. ☺
Now reading: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast.
Describe your company, business, or vocation.
Just The Word is the domain-sales division of Catchword Branding (https://catchwordbranding.com/), a leading naming firm. We list over 1500 brandable domains, categorized by industry, that make for excellent company and product names. I oversee Just The Word and am the founding partner and creative director of Catchword.
How does your service or product helps deliver value to your customers?
The fact that Just The Word is a part of a serious naming firm means that we fully understand the kinds of names that work for products or companies. We like to think we have the best brandables in the business, and have had domain brokers tell us that!
We don’t list other people’s domains or take a commission. Instead, all our domains are carefully chosen from two decades of naming work. As a result, entrepreneurs and marketers can find the right domain without having to sift through lots of gobbledygook and inconsistent pricing.
What fact about you would surprise people?
I am the lead singer of a Bay Area cover band called Highway 13. We gig every month or two at local restaurants, festivals, charity events, and private parties.
What is something you have tried, but will never do again?
Singing “Billie Jean” and trying to sound like Michael Jackson. I might try singing “Billie Jean” again, but I will never again try to sound like the king of pop!
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My father, Richard Williams. He was a child prodigy on the popular radio program Quiz Kids in the 1940s and later became a career diplomat and U.S. ambassador. Despite his illustrious childhood and career, he’s the most unpretentious, thoughtful, and light-hearted person I know.
He taught me the value of humility (though he’s way better at it), curiosity, kindness, and laughing to the point of tears.
What’s your most vivid childhood memory?
Meeting my Chinese relatives in Tianjin, China in 1979. The U.S. and China had just re-established diplomatic relations after 30 years, and my Chinese mother had not seen her brothers or sisters in all that time. I got to meet cousins, uncles and aunts living in 2 rooms with no private bathroom or TV. A completely different world had opened up.
Latest and greatest accomplishment in your career?
Both Just The Word and parent-company Catchword have reached a great place in their evolution. We have an amazing team, top-tier clients, and a culture of fun and innovation. Not to say that there aren’t new worlds to conquer—there always are—but I am really proud of the company and culture we’ve created.
What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?
The MBA in me would spend serious time with the books to make sure it was being well-managed. And then I’d watch a few episodes of Restaurant Impossible to make sure we weren’t making obvious mistakes. But mostly I’d leave it to the manager and staff and try to avoid eye-contact with all that pizza!
What are three albums that have shaped you as a person?
It’s torture being limited to three, but sticking to the criteria of actually shaping me as a person:
1) Give Up the Ghost (Brandi Carlile) — Brandi’s voice is incredible in its expression and pitch-perfection. She inspires me to be a better singer.
2) Rumours (Fleetwood Mac) — This album is really a proxy for all the great rock of the 70s and my love for music that came out of it.
3) The Honest Hour (Assembly of Dust) — One of the best live recordings ever, showcasing incredible musicianship and poetic lyrics. This band and the songs on this album helped make me a lover of live, jammy music.
Where is your favorite place to escape?
NamesCon, the world’s largest domain industry conference, profiles our very own Maria Cypher.